David Preece: This is why ex-Sunderland star Jordan Pickford's comments surprised me - and what the Everton and England ace must do

From the outside, the life of a top level footballer is indeed a cushy one and all in all, you’d be hard pushed to complain about your lot.

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 5:16 pm

So when I see players complaining about criticism levelled at them for their performances, it does make me wince slightly. It gives off an air of a 5-year-old screaming “It’s not fair!” as their request for a second choc ice is refused by a parent.

Well, here’s a newsflash: Life. Isn’t. Fair.

Journalists and pundits can be cutting, fans even more so. Particularly when they’re your own. Adrenalin pumped coaches and teammates can make you feel small with their heat-of-the-moment withering comments. That’s not just football though, it’s everywhere.

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Everton and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

In football utopia, everything is positive and affirming. It’s what we all strive to build. But when the going gets tough, the going is not for everyone. Some crack. Some fold. Some clench their fists. Even fewer are left unaffected and it is those who thrive in our environment.

That’s why I’m a bit surprised by Jordan Pickford’s comments last weekend. Not necessarily that he’s wrong in what he says but by openly expressing them he has shown how much they clearly affect him.

Again, in itself, that’s just him showing a natural human reaction to it all and should be allowed to do so.

Yet, this is the world he has knowingly entered into and is now experience the dip that almost always follows the high of his World Cup heroics two years ago. If anything, he should have been steeling himself for what has happened since.

It’s undeniable that his form has been somewhat sketchy since his move to Goodison.

In his defence, the one in front of him has been guilty of the same, which hasn’t helped him but in these circumstances, to escape criticism, you have to be the answer to the problem, not a contributor.

Much is made of his character rubbing people up the wrong way and I can see that. He’s intense and up to the World Cup, I’d have put it down as an asset. He loved the thrill pressure can give you. Any error made was quickly forgotten and his next action was never hindered by them.

In the minds of many onlookers, you’re either crap or you’re brilliant and there is no in between, so you have to just accept the way things are. This is another case of controlling the controllable and whatever you can’t control isn’t worth wasting your energy on.

I do agree that he seems to draw abuse others don’t. He was slaughtered for ending up behind his line when conceding to Newcastle (of all teams) but nothing was said when when Ben Foster did exactly the same a week later. At the same time though, if you bait fans for banter, you can’t be surprised when they bite back.

I wouldn’t be too bothered about the T-Rex memes, suggesting he has short arms, if I was him either. If you live by the banter, you die by the banter too. You smile, accept your medicine and move on.

It’s the intensity in his game that got him to this point that’s in danger of holding him back, in my opinion.

At the very elite where he is aiming to be, serenity could prove his greatest asset in helping him make better decisions but I know from my own experiences, when you’re so used to being pumped up for games, calming down can feel unnerving. At first, you don’t feel as if you’re game ready but it becomes a habit. A good habit.

You can still see the Sunderland fan and kid who loves his football in Jordan and it has been refreshing to see. Now he has to accept he isn’t either of those anymore.

I know I’m accused of blindly defending Jordan and I’ll always champion a Mackem boy I feel an affinity with but he’s the England No1 with his competitors breathing down his neck.

Now it’s time for the boy to become a man and focus on what’s happening on the pitch and show the doubters they’re wrong.